SANTA FE, NM (KRQE) — Hundreds of protesters gathered at the Roundhouse Wednesday for the third annual Public Lands Rally. This year, organizers say the demonstration was more important than ever.
“Part of the GOP platform is public lands transfer so we have a majority in favor of public lands transfer,” said Garrett Veneklasen of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.
Veneklasen is especially concerned about U.S. House Bill 621. It would sell off 3.3 million acres of public lands, including nearly a million in New Mexico.
The bill is based on a 20-year-old report, which outlines these federal lands as suitable for disposal and other uses.That’s without any further studies or public input, according to Sen. Martin Heinrich’s office.
“Losing these lands would impact our culture, profoundly,” said Veneklasen.
“We care about our public lands. This land is who we are,” said Backcountry Hunters and Anglers’ Jason Amaro.
Those who showed up to speak out say the issue of public lands brings everyone together, from anglers and hunters, to cyclists and skiers.
“I feel I should be able to take my son to the same places my father had taken me,” said Ivan Valdez.
Valdez also fears for his business. He owns a fishing store and worries the bill could impact the tourism industry and, in turn, hurt his bottom line.
“I feel it would have a great impact on our business,” said Valdez.
KRQE News 13 reached out to Rep. Steve Pearce to get his take on the Republican backed bill, but did not hear back. According to the bill, the lands effected were identified for disposal in 1997, under the Clinton Administration.
The bill does not specify which public lands in New Mexico would be impacted, but Sen. Heinrich’s office says it’s highly likely that some of the lands are part of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument outside of Las Cruces.
Land in 26 of New Mexico’s 33 counties are on the list.